Shrinking the gap..(Pt. 2 of 3)

By Ed Scherer-Berry

MARSHALL COUNTY — Dual Credit is a generic name for another program which strives to bring college to students while they are still in high school. The first such program is Advanced Placement (see Page 1). For most public high school students, Dual Credit may be the preferred avenue. For private high schools such as Culver Academies, the AP program may be better.
Dual credit requires a working relationship with a particular post-secondary institution. In this county, such schools include Ivy Tech, IUSB, IU Bloomington, Purdue North Central, Purdue Lafayette, Vincennes University, and others. The advantage to this is that the course taken duplicates exactly the same course on the college campus, providing a seamless transition to that particular institution if the student chooses to go there. In addition, by state law, all state-funded colleges are required to accept the course for credit, and many private institutions in the state do also.
To offer a dual credit course, a high school has to submit credentials (transcripts, etc.) of the proposed teacher to the partner post-secondary institution. The credentialing usually requires a master’s degree in the subject area or at least 18 hours of college courses in the field. Then, if the teacher can be “credentialed” to teach the course in the high school, the college submits a syllabus and curriculum which must be followed by the teacher. Colleges also often bring the teacher to an in-service training to meet the college’s standards. Colleges will typically also visit the classroom at least once during the year to confirm appropriate curriculum and teaching methods.
The upshot of all this is that the student can take the college course in high school for a much-reduced tuition rate ($25 per credit hour), avoid the high costs of campus tuition, housing, and other expenses, and receive college credit for the course. Many county guidance counselors favor this system for helping students to bridge the gap between high school and college.
There is a definite advantage financially to this system. If the course is taught by a credentialed faculty member at the high school, the only cost besides books is a $25-per-credit-hour tuition, mandated by the state for state-supported colleges. This would be a $75 fee for a three-credit-hour course, which on a college campus would cost $613.83 at IUSB, for example. Currently, high school faculty teaching dual credit courses generally are willing to teach the higher level course without additional pay.
If the school does not at present have credentialed faculty to teach the course, another option is to have the partner post-secondary institution send an adjunct instructor to the high school to teach it. In this case, the college instructor would have to be paid either by the school corporation or by the students enrolling. The cost would still be lower than taking the course on campus.
Currently, all Marshall County high schools offer dual credit courses, since by law, all high schools in Indiana are required to offer a minimum of two such courses. Some schools are planning to expand their offerings by credentialing more of their faculty. “Our faculty credentials are already at the Ivy Tech regional campus for review,” said Triton principal Mike Chobanov. This year, Triton and Argos High Schools utilized the “faculty on loan” program with Ivy Tech where an adjunct is used to teach. In addition, both Argos and Triton in Marshall County are listed as “regional partners” by the Ivy Tech office for dual credit. Other nearby but out-of-county high schools so named include Goshen, Mishawaka, Tippecanoe Valley, Warsaw, and Whitko.
Area colleges may offer on-campus programs for high school students to gain college credit. The student would travel to the college campus and take the class either during the school day or in the evening. The tuition rate might be the regular campus rate, or the college might offer a discounted rate to high school students.
One example of this is Ancilla College’s Early Bird Program, in which high school students take regular courses at Ancilla for a reduced rate which is $100 per credit hour below the usual fee. Thirteen to 15 Plymouth students have completed two criminal justice courses at Ancilla. Ancilla is “looking for dual credit opportunities,” said Academic Dean Dr. Joanna Blount. One such possibility might be Ancilla instructors teaching online courses to high school students for dual credit, she indicated. “Oregon-Davis High School just completed an English course online,” she reported. She is concerned with two foci of modern dual credit programs: aligning the college curriculum with high school offerings; and advance preparation for employment (interviewing techniques, employment application skills, workplace ethics, etc.)
While Culver Academies prefers the Advanced Placement program which most of its destination universities insist upon, many public high schools prefer the dual credit model because upon passing, the student is guaranteed credit at least at the partner college and any other state-supported school, and because the credit is not dependent upon a single “make it or break it” exam.
As with any innovation, there are concerns about dual credit. Argos guidance counselor Judy Delp periodically gathers area guidance counselors to Argos for round table discussions. Many counselors, she indicated, are concerned about dual credit from the stand point of students being pushed into career decisions too soon. When students take courses for dual credit, they may feel bound by career choices and college location decisions. As they mature, Delp explained, interests may change, but the student may feel trapped by previous decisions.
In addition, Bremen High School counselor Melissa Manges said, “I wish dual credit was given more weight at the state level as schools are graded.” She felt that Advanced Placement is emphasized over Dual Credit due to the long history of AP classes in high schools. She did say, however, “I’m proud that my small school is able to offer this many opportunities for students to get a leg up on campus life in a safe environment.”
Dual credit is here to stay and will likely be expanded in years to come. One final roadblock has not yet been addressed here: the patchwork, sporadic nature of both Dual Credit and AP programs. Yes, students can take a course and get college credit for it. Yes, it is cheaper in the high school than when they get to a college campus. However, how can a student be sure that a particular course will fulfill requirements at a particular college? Even more to the point is this: How can a student pursue a defined path in high school which will guarantee a productive career end, and even provide a certification or an associate college degree by the time she/he finishes high school? Wouldn’t that give the graduate a two-year head start over other high school graduates? In this time of tight, competitive employment, shouldn’t high school seniors have every possible advantage?
For an answer to these questions, read the third and final article in this series, which explores the intensive and innovative Early College High School model which is currently under development for the Fall at Triton Jr./Sr. High School. Unlike isolated AP and Dual Credit courses, which are usually available only to high school juniors and seniors, the ECHS model involves students in grades nine through 12. Students transferring in to Triton next year will have four full years of intensive help and the real possibility of receiving their associate college degree and high school diploma from principal Chobanov in the same ceremony.